MALAYSIA’S Paralympians held the country enthralled when they came home with a haul of three golds and one bronze. That was mid-2016.
A little earlier, the Rio summer Olympics gave Malaysian Olympians four silvers and a bronze. In fact, sporting events produced Malaysian champions in international competitions. Never has the country been so blessed with a crop of champions across many events.
And, it is not quite over yet, as the country awaits the outcome of the FIFA Puskas Award, which shortlisted Mohd Faiz Subri for the most beautiful goal of the year, beating such greats as Neymar and Lionel Messi to land among the top three. If he wins, he will be the first Asian and Malaysian to win the prestigious award.
On the downside, however, Malaysia is considering opting out of the Formula One temporarily as ticket sales falter.
Holding steady throughout 2016 was the economy, thus, proving critics wrong.
Domestic growth proved sustainable: the Light Rail Transit extensions and the Mass Rapid Transit project was launched. The price of oil, unfortunately, remained troublesome; its gross domestic product contribution shrunk to 13 per cent.
Nevertheless, a sound move on the part of the government took care of the shortfall; the Goods and Services Tax introduced the previous year kept the coffers healthy.
Fortunately for Malaysia, the country’s largest trading partner kept growth at some six per cent, no mean feat for the world’s second largest economy.
Given that Malaysia is a trading nation, the policies and performance of her trading partners matter a great deal.
Despite slowing private investments in China, the public sector is stepping in to alleviate the problem, thus explaining the country’s excess capacity, which is being poured into realising Beijing’s One Belt, One Road policy, which impacts well on the Malaysian economy.
Since China will continue with this strategy into 2017, the synergy between the economies will likely sustain.
On the global front, however, 2016 saw unexpected populist outcomes in the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum, the United States presidential elections and the Italian referendum, in that order.
Naturally, president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise of “Making America Great Again”, if carried through, will complicate matters for many countries, including Malaysia. Brexit, too, is expected to produce protectionist measures threatening the terms of trade with Britain.
Already, Singapore is revising its growth projections downwards as a result of Trump and Brexit.
By far, the more significant of the two is the possibility of the new Washington administration introducing protectionist measures to resurrect the US economy making for millions of jobs.
Observers are expecting Trump to carry through with his threats against China in retaliation for China’s purported currency manipulation affecting US adversely.
The Malaysian economy could be hit on two fronts if and when Trump carries out both promise and threat.
Firstly, US protectionism restricts access to the US market and, secondly, if China wobbles, so too will Malaysia.
Security-wise, meanwhile, 2017 may indeed see fewer conflagrations worldwide but the defeat of the Islamic State and other terrorists in Syria could leave Malaysia vulnerable if the country lets its guard down.